I would like to make a simple suggestion to vastly improve the quality of reporting in Washington. Whenever a reporter writes “Republicans filibuster” they should instead replace it with the far more accurate phrase, “Senate Democrats allow Republicans to filibuster.”
Simply reporting that Senate Republicans “blocked” a bill or a Presidential nominee implies that the Senate minority has dramatically more leverage than it legally does. It feeds a false narrative that currently dominates much of the coverage of Congress by incorrectly implying that the Democratic majority in the Senate is powerless to do anything. It incorrectly absolves Democrats of responsibility by omission.
The only reason the Republican minority is able to stop a nominee with a filibuster is because the Senate Democrats choose to give them that power. At the beginning of the year Democrats thought about reforming the Senate rules to curtail the filibuster but decided to let Republicans keep their extra-constitutional veto. If Senate Democrats really wanted at any time they could use the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster on nominees.
The important point is a determined majority of Senate Democrats could approve every one of Obama’s nominees and there is nothing Senate Republicans could do to stop them. Writing that the Senate Republican minority stopped a nominee is not really true. They only blocked a nominee because the Democrats let them. People should always be told who technically holds the real power because they are the ones who should be held responsible.
If all reporters started using the accurate phrase “Senate Democrats allow Republicans to filibuster” I suspect we would a very different response from Democrats. It shouldn’t be the job of the media to help elected politician hide their actions, or in this case, their willful inaction.
Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund released under Creative Commons License